NotBlueAtAll

I'm just a fat gal with a blog and an opinion. Well, lots of opinions.

It’s Friday & I’m Freaking Out! (Not Fat Related)

December3

This post is unrelated to nearly everything I’ve posted about previously. If you’d prefer to keep your idea of me or this blog as something positive and special (Thank YOU!), please come back on Monday. But if you’ve ever wanted to open your own small business, I must warn you, this post will hold truths you may not want to read. Read on at your own risk. You have been warned.

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I’m a small business owner. I own a small cafe near SFO. When I say small, I mean 400 square feet small! It’s a one-woman show! I do it all! I make the lattes, buy the supplies personally and everything else you can imagine. I chose the location for several reasons, but in the end it boiled down to a great lease rate and a seemingly built-in clientele. The landlord is very understanding. The amount of work it took in the first three months just to prepare the space, get everything up to code and go through an enormous amount of red tape, was staggering. Everything came together in the end, though. Everyone loves my cafe!

The first two months were so difficult. I would come home in tears from the pain in my feet/neck/back/arms/shoulders/everything! My poor-sweet-dear husband would massage what he could and cuddle for the rest. It got better. I did things and was able to accomplish what people said would take years in just a few months! Things were on the up and up and up! In the spring I was making a profit! An honest and true profit (though I couldn’t give you a figure if you put a gun to my head)! I was hopeful for the future. I thought that all of my hard work paid off!

In July suddenly there was no one coming in. Well, not no one, but nearly. A lot of families had suspended their swim lessons for the summer (swim school a few doors down would be that seemingly built-in clientele). I was hopeful that after everyone had their vacations things would pick up again. August was slow, but school was starting soon and surely this meant that people would get back into their usual schedules and start their swim lessons again. But they didn’t. September was bad. October was the worst. I had to swallow every ounce of pride I had and ask my landlord for a break in my rent for four months. He agreed. November seemed a bit better, but it was actually much worse.

It is now December 3rd and I haven’t paid my rent yet. I was in such a great mood this morning. I had the best rush of customers I’d had in ages. By 11:30am I’d made $75 when lately I’ve been pulling in $40-$60 a day (in the spring it was more like $150 a day). Then I get an email from my bank saying that my account was overdrawn. “Impossible!” I shout at no one. I check and there it is: The company that processes my credit card transactions suddenly decides to charge me 3 times the usual amount. On top of this I haven’t received my statement from them yet. So I call and I get treated like garbage. I ask for a supervisor and em denied until I demand it! I then get a voice mail and at this point I can nearly guarantee no one will respond.I owe the county $600 for the annual heath department fee. I couldn’t pay it in October when it was due, but they’ve allowed me to pay in installments (of which I haven’t made a one).

I’ve worked so hard to not incur any debt, at all! When I bought this place I cashed out my 401k (what was left of it after the bubble burst that is) and half of our savings and that was all I ever intended to spend. But things come at you from every angle and place imaginable and unimaginable. Owning a business means being treated differently than you’re used to. Customer service? Ha-ha! Forget about it! You won’t get customer service from anyone, no matter how much money you’re paying them. I pay more for a simple single phone line than a regular Joe would (and that’s only if I don’t make any actual phone calls, they cost more). Everything costs more when you add the word Business to it (and Small Business? Ha! They actually charge even more!).

After about a week of business the “Vultures” started to come out. By vultures I don’t mean the bird, but business entities which come at you incessantly all of the damned time. They never stop. They never calling or coming in. They won’t take no for an answer. They turn someone who believes in kindness and respect and honesty above all else into someone fearful and bitter towards the outside world. They will try to sell you everything under the sun all while telling you they’re not selling anything, in fact, they’d like to help you save money! They are all liars! You can’t sign anything, ever! You can’t just buy something once or in-person. You must sign-up and subscribe and forget about terminating (That would be $200 to terminate). You have to read fine print, on everything! I’ve become so distrustful and paranoid not because I’m crazy or too careful but out of a necessity, to survive!

I’ve been at this for a year and three months and it seems to me right now that it was all for naught. I have nothing to show for all of that work and pain and money than a cafe that hasn’t done a damned thing for me. I’ve been living on pennies a day. I only take home my tips and that’s often around $3 a day! It has affected every aspect of my life. I swore it wouldn’t, of course. It’s even managed to affect my marriage (Money, you buggery bastard!). I can’t take a sick day. I don’t get a vacation. I can’t take a lunch break. It’s just me. If I’m not here with the open sign on then no money comes in and no bills get paid. I’ve done everything in my power to keep overhead low. I’ve done everything on the level, by the book, within the law, to code, you name it!

The worst of the worst is “Merchant Services” companies. They’re those baddies that process credit card transactions for businesses. All businesses. No matter the size, they will gladly take a small fee (and your eyes) for their service. They also treat everyone like garbage! Ever wonder why so many businesses now insist upon you spending a specified amount for purchases with a cred or debit card? The reason is that on top of a transaction fee, percentage and monthly fees they also get to up these fees and more whenever they way, without limits! I’ve fought them tooth and nail. I still do! The company I am with has the best rates and the worst attitude ever! I get about 10-20 phone calls a week from other companies and even salespeople walking in my door offering to beat my current rates and none can. They say they can but then that fine print comes out and: Whoa! RUN!!!

My point in all of this: There is no point and no one should ever open their own business unless they are already independently wealthy. This country has no soft spot for small businesses. The city, county & state take what’s theirs and leave you to the junkyard dogs for what’s left of your bones! They look you in the eye and laugh when they see you still have a soul or heart in your body. A smile is an offense. Caring is laughable! The chips are stacked against you everywhere you turn. It’s not just the economy, I was doing fine in this economy. This economy is nearly all I’ve known. Other business owners will be nice to you at first and then you get to know them and the truth comes out. They’re in hot water or under it, too! Almost all of ’em! There’s no help! There’s no exit. And all of your dreams start circling the drain. You feel lost, alone and without a hand on anything.

It’s to the point, especially today, that I feel like I can’t breathe. There’s no reprieve. Even if I could sell the place I am not sure I would walk away with enough to live on until I found a job. My unemployment’s surely been used up (I simply stopped sending in my stubs the day I opened the cafe). If I sold the equipment? Well, it’d take forever and wouldn’t get me much at all. The space with everything in it and operational is worth far more. But in December? No one’s looking to buy anything but creepy-ass Elmo dolls! (Maude, why were those things invented?!)

I’m usually a very positive person. I’d even convinced myself, up until this afternoon, that things would work out somehow. Now? Now I’m not sure what will happen with the cafe. I’ve never been more uncertain of anything in my life. Now I’m wondering if we’ll be able to keep our apartment when our lease gets renewed in March. Now I’m wondering what I can fucking sell of my possessions (what’s left of them) to pay a bill or two. Now I’m wondering what it was all for when my only goal was a sustainable future (read: not riches and fame). I have not been without a steady personal income since I was 15! And even then I was a nanny for a family friend’s kid. WTF?! The rug has been pulled out from under me. The wind has been knocked out of my sails. I can’t breathe right now. When I try to take a deep breath, the tears come. My heart is broken and I feel betrayed. I have been through so much in my life and have worked and fought so fucking hard just to live and breathe and this still feels worse. This is worse than the break-up on my 20th birthday when I tried to kill myself (thank you Alena & Stephy for saving me that night, you’re both amazing!). I’m not giving up on life, but I am in awe at the sheer amount of pain I am in right now. And I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t know what to tell my gorgeous and loving husband. I am so grateful for everything I have, but I fear that it won’t be around for long. What if it’s too much for him?

And damn you Chrissy Hynde and my fucking iPod for suddenly playing “Hymn to Her” right fucking now! Jeesh!

I seriously don’t want anyone’s pity. I can’t do a thing with it. I cannot take out a loan. Our savings (after the 12th) is long fucking gone (thanks IRS). There’s no rich relative or small miracle in the air. I’m not religious and I just don’t have it in me to believe in much today. Had you talked to me this morning you wouldn’t have believed I could have written this post. But it is what it is. I still have a lot in me, but I am just not sure what to do at this point. My landlord could kick me out by Tuesday for all I know. And then? Then I’d be proper fucked!

If you’ve read this far you’re either the sweetest thing in creation or a sick fuck who enjoys reading about others misery. Either way I thank you. I’ll be okay, somehow. If only I could catch my breath. *sobs*

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44 Comments to

“It’s Friday & I’m Freaking Out! (Not Fat Related)”

  1. On December 3rd, 2010 at 3:14 pm Elaine Says:

    That.really.sucks. I am so sorry to hear about this. Our country really needs to do something to simplify the tax codes and protect small businesses. My sister tried to start a one-woman law practice and had similar experiences (with the bank/governement entities not being business friendly and with the non-stop solicitations). I wish you the best of luck in the future.

  2. On December 3rd, 2010 at 3:16 pm Not Blue at All Says:

    Thank you. I’m sorry to hear about your sister, but at least she’s not alone. Take care of You!

  3. On December 3rd, 2010 at 3:24 pm Joy Says:

    FWIW, I’m really sorry. [Fucking Republicans.]

  4. On December 3rd, 2010 at 3:26 pm Not Blue at All Says:

    Ha-ha! Thanks for the bracketed remark! <3

  5. On December 3rd, 2010 at 4:02 pm Nicole Says:

    I’m sorry that you’re having such a tough time! It is (not so) funny how they say this is the “ERA OF SMALL BUSINESS” and how there is all this help available – but when it comes down to it, there isn’t. I hear things like – small businesses are the “key to success” for the recovery of the economy, blah, blah and but it seems like it is only by hassling/robbing those who work entirely too hard to barely make a living.

    /hugs I hope there is a solution! If you need any help or to need chat, let me know!

  6. On December 4th, 2010 at 10:36 am Not Blue at All Says:

    Yes! People keep telling me, “Can’t you just get a grant?” like it’s Halloween candy or something. I have tried and tried. There’s no grants for me. There’s nothing out there for the little independent guys. I guess it just took me too long to figure that out. I figured if my head and heart were in the right place and what I served was good that the people would come. Oh well. I don’t think I regret a thing. Thank you for your love and support. You’re a great friend and I am so lucky to have met you. <3

  7. On December 3rd, 2010 at 5:53 pm Living400lbs Says:

    I read it all, and I agree, it’s hard. It’s especially hard when your traffic is so variable. *hugs offered*

  8. On December 4th, 2010 at 10:34 am Not Blue at All Says:

    Thanks, doll. *hugs back* Thank you for reading.

  9. On December 3rd, 2010 at 6:23 pm tombrokaw Says:

    You live in the bay area. The Republicans didn’t do jack to your small business and the fact that you think your small business would be A Ok if only the Dems you voted for ran the show, shows what a dumbfuck you are.

    Newsflash, they do run the show. They’ve owned the state government for years and whatever small business laws to which you’d object. They wrote them.

    lol what a dumbass.

  10. On December 4th, 2010 at 10:33 am Not Blue at All Says:

    Oh see, but you’ve made a mistake thinking that I’m a democrat. The dumb ass would be you. My financial concerns have nothing to do with which party is in office but simply the structure and bullshit that goes along with running a business. But surely you, “tombrokaw” or treliu@ucdavis.edu should know better than I, no? You’ve crawled out of your little cubby hole just to give me a hard time when I’m already as low as I can be? Wow! Real classy. Suck an egg, jerkwad!

  11. On December 3rd, 2010 at 6:31 pm JeninCanada Says:

    From a complete and total stranger on the interwebs, you have my sympathy and compassion. A smile and caring about people and having a dream is never. NEVER. a bad thing. The world we live in and the systems that run it are the problem. You’ve done every single thing you can and that’s it. You’ve done it all. If you can manage it, try to be proud for living your dream. I can only hope things get better for you and your dear-sweet-husband very very soon.

  12. On December 4th, 2010 at 10:31 am Not Blue at All Says:

    Aw, thank you! That is almost exactly what he said to me last night when I came home in tears. I am so lucky to have him, and commenters like you, in my life. Thank you! <3

  13. On December 3rd, 2010 at 6:35 pm Anna Says:

    No pity from me, don’t you worry. Pity is reserved for the weak. It sounds like you’re a real tough lady, and you’ve done awesome with this. It sounds like you’re having a real shit time with this, and I hope for all the best for you.

    More than anything, I admire how strong you are, and how well you’re doing considering how stressful this must be.

  14. On December 4th, 2010 at 10:30 am Not Blue at All Says:

    Thank you. What’s funny is that two nights ago I was looking at this book I have about health and food stuff, I was actually looking something up for a neighbor, but I came across the “Stress” section and my mind was blown. Every single symptom (and there was a full page worth) I had! It actually explained a lot about some of the issues I’ve been having with memory and things like that. And here I thought it was simple aging! Ha-ha! Thank you for the no-pity. I do consider myself strong (and stubborn), but sometimes we can only take so much for so long. Thanks for your support. =0)

  15. On December 3rd, 2010 at 7:52 pm vesta44 Says:

    Yeah, I wanted to start a craft business, selling the dolls I made. Once I found out that people loved them but weren’t willing to pay what it cost me to make them, let alone give me a pittance for my time, I said to hell with that – a hand-crafted fabric doll can take anywhere from 10 to 20 hours to make, depending on how much work is put into her and her clothing. A soft-sculptured doll that’s anatomically correct can take up to 80 hours to make. Yeah, I’m not giving those away for $20. And the paperwork, taxes, keeping track of everything I bought, it just wasn’t worth it.
    So I know a little bit how you’re feeling, and it sucks big time. I’m so sorry, I wish there was something I could do…………………

  16. On December 4th, 2010 at 10:27 am Not Blue at All Says:

    No worries. Thank you simply for your kind words and thoughts. And you’re so right about the work that goes into crafts. I make aprons and it amazes me that people won’t pay $20 for an apron that took hours for me to make. I do it more as a hobby, but still. Thank you for being you! <3

  17. On December 3rd, 2010 at 8:26 pm Twistie Says:

    (hugs you)

    No pity, but I’ve got two shoulders, no waiting. Cry on ’em all you need. And if I know someone going out to SFO, I’ll badger them to stop in and support you.

    I can’t promise a miracle, but I will say that there are a lot of people who really do give a damn. And I’ll also say everybody needs to dump the emotional toxins now and again. That’s part of what blogs are for.

    (hands you a hanky)

    Chin up… but only when you’re good and ready.

  18. On December 4th, 2010 at 10:25 am Not Blue at All Says:

    Thanks, hun. You’re too kind, I swear! After a few good cries and a talk with my husband I don’t think it’s quite as dire as it seemed yesterday. One day at a time as they say. It’s just soul crushing and that’s the hard part. I don’t even think I know your real name, but I do consider you a good friend. Thank you for that! <3

  19. On December 3rd, 2010 at 10:29 pm Kate Says:

    I’m really sorry. Small businesses aren’t really protected in this country (I’m not going to get started on a political rant) and that’s a damn shame. It’s why you can’t buy anything any more that’s not mass produced somewhere, also another rant I don’t want to get started.

    My husband and I cashed out our 401ks to start a business that eventually failed, but with the distance of time I don’t regret trying, and we’re trying again and hopefully we learned something, but who knows.

    Just as a brainstorm, could you recruit any crafting groups, or actually any kind of group, to use your shop as a regular meeting place? Or even create a Meetup group for something you could teach or have a friend teach?

    Yeah those f’n charge card fees are crazy, our new company doesn’t even have a paying customer yet and we pay like $50 a month just to be set up to take cards. I need to be better at paying cash when in small shops. Too bad you can’t install an atm in your shop, then you could get a cut of those fees and get paid in cash for your offerings.

    Finally, total ditto to Joy.

  20. On December 4th, 2010 at 10:22 am Not Blue at All Says:

    What? $50? That is the most I’ve ever heard of. Please tell me you didn’t sign a contract with them?! I pay $5 a month + $.17 per transaction + 1.17% per transaction. It’s the annual PCI compliance fee ($129) that killed me yesterday. I would hate to recommend this company that treats me so poorly, but you would save a lot of money. My bank even offered to beat the rate I have but the fine print said I had to be in business for some amount of time and I hate my bank. Ha-ha!
    I’m with ya on the ranting about all of the above, my friend. It’s insane. We’re TOLD things that are complete and utter lies and are expected to swallow it compliantly.
    I wish you the best in your new business. In the end I think I did everything right and well, business just might not be for me, ya know? I have a heart and a soul and I refuse to give those up. As sad as it makes me, I don’t think I will regret this either. Thanks, doll.

  21. On December 4th, 2010 at 7:13 am alex Says:

    i hope this isn’t offensive, but is there any way i can help…? i have quite a lot of money-more than i need-and this post touched my heart. i’m so sorry for all you’ve been going thru, tho we don’t know each other.

  22. On December 4th, 2010 at 10:15 am Not Blue at All Says:

    Thank you. I appreciate the offer but I simply refuse to go into debt over this business. I promised myself and my husband that if everything fell apart in the end I would just walk away. As difficult as that is to consider, I believe it’s much better than owing up to my eyeballs. Ha! But thank you so much. <3

  23. On December 4th, 2010 at 1:47 pm Missy Says:

    I’m so sorry, honey. It sounds very very hard and scary. You’ve worked so hard. I hope it gets better for you.

  24. On December 4th, 2010 at 1:58 pm Not Blue at All Says:

    Thanks, doll. I appreciate it. =0)

  25. On December 5th, 2010 at 5:34 pm Susan Says:

    If it makes you feel any better, I’ve been there and I know what it’s like. I ran my own business for 8 years, together with my hubby, (so no second income coming in) and we walked away with nothing. That was 13 years ago and we *still* get soliciting phone calls.

    But you know what? If you can survive something like this, you can survive anything!

    I hope things turn arround for you.

    Sending you big hugs!

  26. On December 6th, 2010 at 8:55 am Not Blue at All Says:

    Thank you! *hugs back*

  27. On December 6th, 2010 at 11:22 am Dee Says:

    I just wanted to offer my sympathy, for what it’s worth. The government (both parties) is so busy doing favors for big corporations that they forget that small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy.

  28. On December 6th, 2010 at 11:29 am Not Blue at All Says:

    Thanks, doll. You’re so very right! But I also think that people have forgotten what small business look like and are! They don’t even know how to act when they come to my cafe sometimes. It’s a shame. We’re all so programmed to go about our business anonymously. =0)

  29. On December 6th, 2010 at 11:57 am KW Says:

    Hey, I think I have only commented here once or twice so you don’t really know me, but I just wanted to say you have my sympathies! You certainly won’t get pity if you don’t want it or need it, but I definitely sympathize. My parents actually live in San Francisco, they were really comfortable for a while and then my step-dad’s business collapsed and now they are struggling like everyone else. It’s so hard right now, it seems so endless and hopeless sometimes. I just want to commend you for the guts it takes to start your own business. I really truly hope things get better for you, whatever it takes.

  30. On December 6th, 2010 at 12:18 pm Not Blue at All Says:

    Thank you!!!

  31. On December 6th, 2010 at 12:31 pm Chutti Says:

    Just echoing the support and hugs for you….

    It takes a lot of guts and work to start and maintain a small business any time, but these days, even more so.
    Your unwillingness to shut down your heart and your drive to extend your values into your business will have to pay a dividend for you sometime, I am certain.

    You are putting so much of yourself out there. I know something is going to come of it. And I suspect you do too. Glad you’ve got a great hubby to talk to, but this is indeed part of what blogs are for.

    more hugs….

  32. On December 6th, 2010 at 12:45 pm Not Blue at All Says:

    Thank you. *hugs*

  33. On December 6th, 2010 at 8:46 pm tombrokaw Says:

    Your complaint has nothing to do with who’s in office? Don’t play dumb. Even though it seems you’re quite good at it. Explain this exchange then?

    On December 3rd, 2010 at 3:24 pm
    Joy Says:
    FWIW, I’m really sorry. [Fucking Republicans.]

    On December 3rd, 2010 at 3:26 pm
    Not Blue at All Says:
    Ha-ha! Thanks for the bracketed remark! <3

  34. On December 7th, 2010 at 10:51 am Not Blue at All Says:

    Yes, you’ve found me out, I dispise both parties. I don’t see how that makes me dumb. Now, kicking someone when they’re down and calling them names? I bet that doesn’t take much of an I.Q.

  35. On December 7th, 2010 at 3:26 am Kath Says:

    Some time ago, I owned my own business. I remember all of the feelings you describe all too well. Just a few months ago, friends of mine in Canada with a small business (bakery-bistro) closed their business down, and all those feelings came flooding back for me.

    In my case, I discovered the absolute joy of walking out of the office at the end of the day and leaving everything behind for some other bastard to deal with. I realised soon after I closed my business down how life could be so, so much better than how I was living when I owned the business.

    As my friend Ian said a month or so after moving on from their business, with such surprise “OMG I have a life! Now I just need to find a living.”

    I know it’s no consolation right now, but whatever happens, it’s not the end. It’s just a new beginning.

    You have my email any time you want to talk honey.

  36. On December 7th, 2010 at 10:52 am Not Blue at All Says:

    Thanks, Kath. You’re a true sweetie! And you’re totally right. And we need to set up a time to do that podcast, I’m ready when you are!

  37. On December 7th, 2010 at 3:55 pm Laura Says:

    Hubby and I both got laid off back in the crash of 2001 and started our own business. The first year / year and a half was absolutely the hardest, scariest, most insane time of my life.

    A couple things struck me about your post. One, I am so sorry things are the way they are for you. Building a business is hard and even years into it I still have those moments of anxiety. We’re not in retail and I don’t know if I could do retail. It sounds even harder than what we did.

    Two, a business owner going into debt isn’t always bad. Sometimes you have to do it. We ended up taking out a loan (on our credit cards) to pay for taxes our second year. Some of it was that we’d have to go into debt whether or not we kept the business open (the taxes were owed) and so just plugging away seemed to make sense at the time. We also had a reasonable expectation of cash flow coming in over the next 5 – 8 months (which did happen).

    I’m not saying that going into debt is the right thing for you. I don’t know enough about your situation. I’m just saying that sometimes debt is a reasonable tradeoff for a business.

    Three, as a business owner I hate merchant services. HATE HATE HATE. And the stupid PCI compliance. We’re peripherally involved in internet security and our systems are too hardened to pass their tests. Sounds stupid, but we had to create holes in our security so they could test it. In fact, that was done on their recommendation.

    Anyway, I feel for you and wish there was some way I could make it better for you. I wish you all the best and hope you weather this bump in the starting a business road. I also wish I could tell you it gets better fast, but, well, last year was our first real vacation since we started the business and we were still doing customer support from the beach (yay for iPads and cellular data).

  38. On December 7th, 2010 at 4:39 pm Not Blue at All Says:

    Thank you. I completely understand the debt thing, both sides, truly…right now it’s just not a possibility. If things were a bit better I might consider it, but I just can’t see having to pay off something without an income or even knowing I’ll be in business in 30 days time. Yes, that PCI thing is utter bullshit. Glad to know that your system was too good for them. Ha-ha!

  39. On December 8th, 2010 at 2:20 am Kath Says:

    “Tom Brokaw” isn’t getting any attention from trolling about fat, now he’s trying something else.

    Is fat blog trolling not making your tiny, tiny, tiny penis hard any more Tom?

  40. On December 8th, 2010 at 8:52 am Not Blue at All Says:

    Yes, funny that they chose that name. And honestly? I haven’t been fat bashed on this blog. (Not wanting to jinx myself here.) But I did find it strange that they assumed I was specifically affiliated with a political party. Just shows how little they know or were paying attention. I can laugh at what I choose, obv. =0)

  41. On December 8th, 2010 at 2:21 am Kath Says:

    Re: Podcast – let me get through this life sapping project at work and we’re on!

  42. On December 8th, 2010 at 8:51 am Not Blue at All Says:

    You just let me know when you’re ready! =0)

  43. On December 9th, 2010 at 4:15 am Kath Says:

    Oh he’s been trolling us all over the place for ages. Too gutless to put his own name anywhere.

  44. On December 9th, 2010 at 9:15 am Not Blue at All Says:

    Oh! I had no idea. Thanks for the heads up.

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